“Napster was the ultimate geek banner, a battle that had been fought by hackers on the biggest stage of all. Ultimately, the hackers had lost, but … it was still the biggest hack in history.”–Ben Mezrich, Accidental Billionaires (Ch. 18)
We are going to focus on Napster in our next class, and we are going to re-enact a preliminary injunction hearing in the case of Metallica v. Napster. In that case, the rock band Metallica sued Napster for copyright infringement, in essence, accusing Napster of allowing its users to steal Metallica’s music. Accordingly, we are going to need four student-volunteers for this activity:
(1) Two students will represent the plaintiff, the rock band Metallica, and so your side will argue why Napster’s file-sharing system is illegal (copyright infringement) and why your client is entitled to an injunction.
(2) The other two students will represent the defendant, the peer-to-peer file-sharing website Napster. Your side will argue why Napster’s file-sharing system constitutes “fair use” under federal copyright law.
Here is some background: Before Sean Parker discovered Facebook, he co-founded a company called Napster, a peer-to-peer file-sharing website that allowed users to share MP3 music files with each other (see image below, courtesy of the website “How Stuff Works”). At the time (1999-2001), Napster was huge. According to Wikipedia, for example, “verified Napster use peaked with 26.4 million users worldwide in February 2001.” By the way, Metallica wasn’t the only plaintiff who sued Napster. The powerful Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) also brought a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Napster in December 1999, and the RIAA eventually persuaded a court to issue an injunction shutting down the website … But did the court make the correct decision?
Critical thinking question: How is a website like YouTube any different than the old Napster?